Dr Feelwell - The Virtual Doctor

When patients are admitted to services unwell, priorities can change. Sometimes a lack of hope and focus on the future means that certain aspects of their lives seem less important. One of these areas is leading a healthy lifestyle and making healthy choices. The challenge we face is how to deliver effective health-related messages that engage people in a way that motivates them to improve their own health and wellbeing.

Dr Feelwell is the result of two years of work, shaped by a group of patients and staff (Graphics Focus Group and Recovery Champions) around the limited availability of healthy lifestyle messages in this setting so we developed our own resources.

Dr Feelwell is a simple yet powerful concept. It allows the key messages of health promotion to be delivered by staff and patients together, ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’. The content of these messages has been taken from the public domain, simplified and made into basic lesson plans so that they can be delivered to ward communities by anyone. There are currently 12 key issues detailing topics such as ‘Healthy Heart’, ‘Be Weight Wise’ and ‘Get Active’.  Whilst these messages are serious, using the simple imagery of Dr Feelwell creates a less formal and visual way of sharing health promotion messages.

The resources developed by the graphic design team shaped by our patient recovery champions are delivered by inpatients and health promotion nurses to their own ward communities at their own level. This allows patients on restrictive observations, or those who are hard to engage, an opportunity to sit in the comfort and safety of their own ward and receive and discuss important education and advice.

This initiative has helped tackle stigma, it has helped break down the traditional roles of them and us, staff and patients, in a safe way. Staff and patients standing side by side, working together, supporting our aim to have a more recovery focused staff and services whilst delivering health promotion advice and support.  Furthermore, the key health messages are being heard, not only by patients but also by staff members. Both groups say that they like the visual aspects of ‘Dr Feelwell’ and that it is a fun way to get important messages across.

One patient co-delivering the Dr Feelwell messages on a high dependency ward reported a growth in confidence and a sense of purpose. They felt that they were able to make a visible difference by motivating more patients to be involved in their own health promotion, especially in relation to physical activity. Other patients have reported being a ‘part of things’ and feelings that they have a valued role, a sense of purpose. They talk about continuing their role when they move on from our service into lesser secure accommodation. Hope and a focus on the future is an important aspect of our patients’ recovery. 

For more information email DrFeelwell@merseycare.nhs.uk

Read our magazine feature from Spring 2015

Find out more about Our Recovery Programme